Read + Reflect: 28 Days with Martin (Installment #1)

Dear Gentle Readers,


I, like many of you, am a white pastor ministering to a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly white suburb (a suburb of St. Louis in my case) who is, nonetheless, always striving to push myself and my flock into the work of antiracism, liberation, and critical consciousness. And this, I will often contend to my parish, should hit close to home specifically for us given our geographical proximity to the killing of Michael brown and the resultant Ferguson riots—the event that launched the Black Lives Matter movement into the national spotlight.


I believe that predominantly white churches should always be reflecting on the ways in which we can be standing in solidarity with the Black community and ways we can make an impact in the fight for racial justice. The rub, though, is how to move our often-apathetic white congregations into a space of care and concern for issues of injustice that don’t affect them. Luckily for you, gentle readers, this is exactly the question my doctoral work is examining, so (hopefully) there will be more articles forthcoming on this question.


In any case, one of the ways I’m encouraging my congregation to learn about the social roots of black oppression in modernity is through an educational series called Read + Reflect: 28 Days with Martin. Everyday in the month of February, I will publish a brief excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.’s writing and a short reflection question on my church’s Facebook account and via email to those who subscribe to our Social Justice Team. My hope is that these short, regular exposures to King’s words—which often expand beyond then-current race relations and into theology, philosophy, economics, and militarism—will stir something in people to become more educated, advocate for justice, and carry on King’s dream.


This series will be published in five parts, with the first installment listed below for this week, February 1-5. Subsequent weeks will be published on Sundays for the following weeks. I encourage you to make use of these however you’re able for your churches and ministries, whether that’s social media, email, small groups, or something else. It’s a joy to join together with you in the work of justice.


1 February 2023




“Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)





Think critically about 21st century America: What are some examples we can point to where injustice in one context affects injustice in another?



2 February 2023




“We can never forget that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness, that man is not totally depraved; to put it in theological terms, the image of God is never totally gone.” (Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience, 1961)




King believed that no matter who someone is, there is something inside of them that can be appealed to for the cause of love and justice. Think about the people in your own life; how might you appeal to that “something” inside of them that they might take the side of the oppressed and help the cause of liberation?



3 February 2023




“Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.” (Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, 1960)




How can we, either as individuals or as a community of faith, ensure that our religious commitments find an external, social expression and not merely an internal, spiritual one?



4 February 2023




“True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—tension, confusion, or war; it is the presence of some positive force—justice, good will and brotherhood.” (Nonviolence and Racial Justice, 1957)




There’s a difference between being free “from” something and being free “for” something. As Christians, in what ways are we uniquely free “for” the works of justice and liberation?



5 February 2023




“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (I Have a Dream, 1963)




Take a moment and mediate on King’s imagery here: What do you, personally, think it would look like for justice and righteousness to saturate contemporary society?

[Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are taken from A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. James M. Washington, (New York: HarperCollins, 1991).]



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